What Happened to Freeplay?

This section is for discussing the story behind the game and Survarium universe.

25.07.2020, 14:37

Question: Back in 2013 when Survarium was announced and the Alpha version of the game was available, Vostok had plans to create a rather ambitious Freeplay mode to go along with it. Freeplay's description (When reading the previous developer diaries) sounds like it was a Battle Royale style concept, even before the genre was widely known globally. Subsequently there were many changes to the game's vision, gameplay and visual appeal. Yet many players are still unsure as to why the Freeplay mode of the game was set aside and if, in the future, it will ever become a reality, being it a changed concept or not. Can you please give us some insight into exactly what became of the concept? Daily there are players questioning this and Vostok's motives. So, perhaps this feature can set the record straight, once and for all.

VG: Ok, this will be a long read, sorry.

Freeplay has been an ambitious concept indeed, especially at the start of Survarium development, when we had neither the technology in place, nor the experience of operating a free2play game and the possible challenges behind it. So, as the development progressed, we realized that we bit off more than we could chew, and the decision was made to start with PvP as a simpler concept and then move to PvE as the next step. However, despite the seeming simplicity and less innovation required, the implementation of the former didn’t turn out as an easy road for us either – building a technology and the game at the same time considerably slowed down the process of releasing updates and the new features. That made our initial planning and expectations continuously shift.

The launch of Early Access on Steam attracted a lot of attention – we had more than 450 000 players try the game in the first month, however technically the game was not there yet to be called ready and polished, so many players left after the first try, leaving negative reviews behind, and never came back. It was a tough lesson to learn, especially in the context of a free2play game, where the players do not need to pay to be able to play and only a small percentage of them would donate in the game. Therefore, you need to sustain a fairly large and stable playerbase to be able to support the development and succeed with the game.

So retention of the players has become our main goal and the challenge. Normally you get that beaten with quick patches, continuous iterations on game balance and economy, in-game events as well as newbie-friendly content, such as tutorials etc. We did the impossible, but the pace of changes was still too slow while the volume of unresolved issues and the expectations only grew. So that turned out a double-kick for us: the stream of the players online gradually shallowed, while the revenues generated by the game did not allow us to expand the development team to speed things up. On the contrary, we had to start cutting costs and reduce the number of developers on the project to be able to continue with the game. Naturally, that didn’t help building something as big as the Freeplay mode.

In the long run, we kind of got stuck in this vicious circle of chasing the dream while being limited with resources to be able to deliver it. At some point we managed to attract more investment money into the game, which helped pump up the team and deliver a bunch of good features and content, like in-game events, new UI, the first PvE mission, new graphics renderer etc. That wasn’t the Freeplay yet, but just the first step in that direction. That effort brought good results and feedback from the community, but still not enough resources to build a vastly new experience like Freeplay in the quality that we believe would be satisfactory. So for the moment, we stick to the policy of smaller feature and content updates to improve the game step by step in hope the community of the game could grow and make the Freeplay possible.
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joewillburn
Vostok Games
 
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